FHWA files environmental costs report with House Appropriations Committee

News AASHTO Journal November 20, 2006
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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), with the assistance of 24 state transportation agencies, filed a report to the House Committee on Appropriations late last month indicating that environmental costs represent up to 8% of a project's total, while there is an effort underway to better track these figures.

FHWA case study research identified four states--Maryland, Montana, Oregon and Washington--as currently having experience with extensive environmental cost tracking. For a variety of reasons, such as lack of resources, differentiating between environmental and non-environmental costs, unique geography and project specifics, states question the benefits of tracking environmental costs. The administration and states, however, are working to track environmental costs for better program accountability, project estimating, policy and decision making, the FHWA report said.

Because FHWA found only limited environmental costs data, the administration cautioned congress that the results contained in the report were limited. The information presented to the House committee was derived from research conduced by the FHWA in 2005-2006 in a report titled "Costs Related to Compliance with Federal Environmental Laws: Case Studies in the Federal-aid Highway Program."

FHWA looked at six projects in Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah and Washington. In the report's summary, FHWA found environmental review and design accounted for 23% of projects' costs; land acquisition 18%; construction engineering 5%; and construction 4%.

Federal-aid highway projects have to satisfy National Environmental Policy Act guidelines, as well as the following major laws and Executive Orders:

• Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, Title 16, U.S. Code, Section 1531;

• National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, Title 16, U.S. Code Section 470;

• Clean Water Act of 1977, as amended, Title 33, U.S. Code, Section 1251;

• Department of Transportation Act of 1966, as amended, Title 49, U.S. Code, Section 1563(f), as codified in Title 49, U.S. Code, Section 303 and commonly known as 4(f);

• Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Title 16, U.S. Code, Sections 661-666(C); and

• Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title 42, U.S. Code, Section 2000(d).

Other applicable laws and Executive Orders may be found at the FHWA website under the titles "Ecological: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects"; Summary of Environmental Legislation Affecting Transportation"; and, "Federal Environmental Laws and Executive Orders Applicable to the Development and Review of Transportation Infrastructure Projects.

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